This Woman Combats Her Fear of Aging by Taking Photos of Elderly Farm Animals

"I am terrified of growing old [so] I started photographing geriatric animals."

For nearly a decade, Isa Leshko, a photographer who focuses on themes of aging and animal rights, has been traveling around the country to take photos of elderly farm animals in sanctuaries. Many of them are in her book, Allowed to Grow Old, which has received much acclaim from animal rights advocates.

Leshko told Best Life that she began the series shortly after caring for her mom, who had Alzheimer's disease, as a way of dealing with her increasing anxiety about mortality.

"I am terrified of growing old and I started photographing geriatric animals in order to take an unflinching look at this fear," she said. "As I met rescued farm animals and heard their stories, though, my motivation for creating this work changed. I became a passionate advocate for these animals and I wanted to use my images to speak on their behalf."

The results are a beautiful and touching look at why farm animals should be allowed to live out their days instead of being slaughtered. Here are some of her most moving photos.


rescued farm animals photos
Isa Leshko

"For each image, I strive to reveal the unique personality of the animal I photograph," Leshko said. Take this 21-year-old Alpine goat named Abe, for example. He was surrendered to a sanctuary after his guardian entered an assisted living facility.


rescued farm animals photos
Isa Leshko

Some of the animals, like this eight-year-old Broad Breasted White turkey who was a factory farm survivor, can take a bit to open up.

"Rescued farm animals are often wary of strangers, and it can take several days to develop a comfortable rapport with the animals I photograph," Leshko said. "I often spend a few hours lying on the ground next to an animal before taking a single picture. This helps the animal acclimate to my presence and allows me to be fully present as I get to know her."

Handsome One

animal rescue photos
Isa Leshko

The 33-year-old thoroughbred horse was surrendered to a sanctuary when he retired from racing.


animal rescue photos
Isa Leshko

This 12-year-old potbellied pig was born with her hind legs partially paralyzed. She was surrendered to a sanctuary due to her disability.

"Nearly all of the farm animals I met for this project endured horrific abuse and neglect prior to their rescue," Leshko said. "Yet it is a massive understatement to say that they are the lucky ones."


elderly rescue animals
Isa Leshko

This three-year-old White Holland turkey was "rescued as a young poult from a commercial hatchery that supplies turkeys to factory farms," according to Leshko.

"Roughly 50 billion land animals are factory farmed globally each year," she said. "It is nothing short of a miracle to be in the presence of a farm animal who has managed to reach old age."

Unknown Rooster

rescued farm animals photos
Isa Leshko

This elderly rooster, whose age is unknown, was a factory farm survivor, as well.


rescue farm animals photo series
Isa Leshko

Blue, an Australian Kelpie rescue dog, was a companion for an incredible 21 years.

"I juxtapose these images [of elderly companion animals] with my farmed animal portraits to exemplify the similarities among these animals and to invite inquiry into why we pamper some animals and butcher others," Leshko explained.

And for more heartfelt animal tales, check out these 19 Pet Adoption Stories That Will Make You Cry.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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